Getting content from web design clients – a battle from hell!

So, I have finished up a new website for a client and it has taken a lot longer than was anticipated. The reason? Getting content from my client took a very long time (2+ months). The original timeline for the project was about 6-7 weeks. I was on schedule and ready to go, however, it took a very long time and many many emails to get the content I needed from my client to finish up the website. The project started in August, and now it finally launched just a few days ago and here it is almost a new year.

I know many of you out there that read Dorm Room Biz are web designers in some sort of fashion and deal with clients on a daily basis just like I do. So I wanted to share a few different ways in which I think may be helpful to keep your projects on schedule and have a successful on time launch – focusing on getting the content from the client.

1. Set a schedule – It is important when you start a new project to clearly lay out with the client a schedule of when things will be completed on your side and when they are expected to be completed by your client. Once agreeing to something pleasing to both of you, agree to it and move forward. It is very important that you try your hardest to keep to the schedule and stress the importance of it to your client. However, while setting a schedule, build in time for delays in the project – such as waiting for responses or content from the client. If you think a project will take you 5 weeks, add an extra week or even two if you have the time to do so and it won’t cause any problems (with other projects or financially).

2. Set your schedule in writing and in a contract – This is where most people fall short with setting a schedule. It is obviously important to have a signed contract or agreement with your client that outlines things such as the services provided and costs associated. However, go ahead and add in to your contract your expected schedule and deadlines for you and your client to provide the needed information. If you can make your client responsible for providing content and put a deadline on it, you will have a better chance of getting everything accomplished on time. Another part of this is to have a penalty if a deadline is missed. If you set a deadline to receive content for at least 2 pages worth of content and the client does not make that deadline, tell them they will be charged $50 for every day that it is late. Obviously this is going to put some fire under your client’s ass to get them to write and give you the content by the set deadline because they do not want to waste the money for missing a deadline. Now, your client may be a little upset when he/she hears this, so you do have to make it a two way street and promise something to your client if you do not reach one of your deadlines. Tell your client that if you miss a deadline you will provide an extra month of free maintenance or reduce the cost of the project by $25 or something. If you make the situation fair to your client they will be much more likely to accept the terms and follow them.

3. Stick to your schedule – If your client misses a deadline, make sure that they know it. Send them reminders of the deadlines to keep them informed and make sure that they know what they are supposed to be doing. This is very important. Keeping in constant contact with your client will make the process go much smoother and make them feel more involved in the whole process. Be sure to update your client with your progress so that he/she knows that work is getting done and that you are sticking to your deadlines as well. Now with this also comes enforcing any extra charges/penalties that you may have agreed on with the client such as being charged an extra $50 for late content. Collect this money or take care of any penalty before moving on with the project. This should make your client want to either meet the deadlines or get them to take care of any penalties right away and not to waste any more time.

4. Demand all content before starting work – This is an interesting strategy that I have heard that a few different designers use. When they get a new client, the will go through all the beginning stages of development after signing a contract – research, rough designs, etc. And then before doing any real actual work such as designing/coding/programming, they agreed in the contract that all content would be submitted before hand. Now this may be hard for some clients to do if they do not know what pages they are going to have, so it is important to lay out all the sections and pages of the site before hand so the client knows what is expected. Obviously you will not be able to get every little piece of content from your client before you actually start putting everything together because you may decide to make changes to the design along the way or add more sections, but the majority of content could be gathered/put together before the creating of the site so that everything is ready to go when you finish the layout and just plug the content it. This will make the process smooth and also move very fast once you have the layout designed and ready to go.

I am sure that there are many more ways to be sure that you get your clients content in a timely manner or stick to a schedule. These are just a few of my ideas/tips. What do you all do to make sure that your clients come through in meeting deadlines and providing the needed information?

5 Responses to Getting content from web design clients – a battle from hell!

  1. Chris M Johnson December 28, 2006 at 8:11 pm #

    Can’t agree more. One of the hardest things in getting a site completed is getting the content in place. I have a project that I am working on for my Dad’s business. It’s been in development now for over a year because he has not put any thought or development into the content.

    Getting everything scheduled and specced out in writing is the best way to reduce the risk of the content delay.

  2. Chris December 28, 2006 at 8:25 pm #

    I hope you get that project finished. A year is a little too long for me to be stuck on a project, yet it is for your father. If it was for a non related client I probably would have dropped them a long time ago or demanded more compensation.

  3. Bobby December 31, 2006 at 3:40 am #

    Chris, I couldn’t agree more with this article. You and I both know these struggles first hand!

  4. Financial Imbalance January 4, 2007 at 1:04 pm #

    Again, have to agree with the rest; getting content is by far the slowest process in web development and in my current employment getting it; does not necessarily mean that its the final version. I find that once content is posted for review clients will find ways to keep you working; editing this page or that page. change this paragraph or omit this sections. It just never stops. And then two months after the launch they have revised all the content and would like the old stuff updated. I guess if you charge you clients maintenance fees, this isn’t necessariliy a bad thing as it keeps funds rolling in.

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